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Future of newspapers: Investigative reporting only?

February 3, 2009

I got into a discussion about news consumption and the future of journalism earlier today with some Twitter followers of pnwlocalnews (that’s the account I Tweet from on the clock) and one brought up something I’ve considered in the past:

Let me hone that to further illustrate my view: Why not transform big print dailies into specialized publications that only run investigative news? It seems to satisfy a few gripes and worries about the decline of mainstream news:

• Investigative pieces tend to be what traditional journos focus on most when fears of another closure arise; they seem fairly willing to concede that neighborhood blogs can provide better beat coverage.
• Despite the “who gives a damn” rhetoric I toss into these posts, I do think there’s a need for good journalists who know how to and can get access — this provides a way to keep them around.
• If a reporter is only working on one investigative piece (or two, or just a few) at a time, it arguably creates a more timely and efficient product (not always the case, I know).
• Of course everything ends up online, but long investigative pieces are usually easier read on a printed page, when someone takes the time to sit down and take them in.

On the other hand, I see some problems with this, too:

• It’s going to be harder to get information when you’re walking into the White House as John Smith, Finder-Outer of Dirty Political Dealings for the New York Times.
• It has to be said: How would advertisers respond to a media outlet whose sole purpose is to air out others’ dirty laundry? Surely an advertiser would think, “What happens if they come to investigate me?”

What are your thoughts?

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